An evolution of display technologies
By Chong Jinn Xiung July 29, 2017
- TV has undergone significant changes through its lifetime
- More is in store for TVs aside from getting thinner as display technologies get slimmer
THEY are a prominent feature in living rooms all over the world, bringing significant world events from man’s first step on the Moon, far away conflicts and breaking news stories right into one’s home.
Indeed, the TV is one of the most prominent consumer electronics devices to have stood the test of time, acting as the focal point of families at many gatherings.
Over the course of time, they have reduced in size from the big bulky Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) of yesteryear to the ultra slim Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) TVs of today.
For a device that is less than a hundred years old, the TV has evolved rapidly over the years. Though its core function still remains as a delivery platform for video content, the technological innovations have changed the format as well as the viewing habits of its audience.
During a panel session on the evolution of TVs, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) senior lecturer Professor Dr Ahmad Sabirin explained that the technology in TVs has undergone massive changes from the days of the CRT to Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) that require a backlight to illuminate pixels to modern OLEDs that have self-emitting pixels that deliver more accurate colours and sharper images.
But what makes for a good display? Ideally, the perfect viewing angle is right in front of the TV right in the centre, but a good many viewers actually watch TV off to the sides. Conventional LCD panels don’t provide satisfying image quality especially to those viewing from the side.
Improved viewing angles from LED TVs, however, allow more people to enjoy the content without having to fight for the prime viewing spot right in the centre.
Colour accuracy is another prime factor that determines the quality of the image. With older backlit LCD displays, the backlit units on the back are constantly ‘on’ hence they create a greyish colour when presenting dark scenes instead of pure black.
OLEDs, on the other hand, are able to individually switch off the pixel so it not only saves power but also presents a perfect black that represents more life-like images.
When it comes to price, LCDs are no doubt cheaper than OLEDs due to the fact that LCDs are more matured technologies and have been on the market longer.
OLED remains as a newer technology hence the cost is higher. But as in all things, once there is greater adoption due to demand for higher quality 4K and beyond content, the price is expected to reduce.
The challenge for content creators
With no standard display format, film producers like James Lee of Doghouse 73 Pictures face the challenge of producing video content for a medium that audiences could be watching on a massive 60-inch TV, laptop or 4.5-inch smartphone.
Colour accuracy remains the paramount concern for filmmakers as it matters to them when engaging in the process of colour grading, the process of altering and enhancing the colour of a motion picture.
As each TV may present colours differently, filmmakers have to refer to black as their main point of reference. The truer a display is able to represent black means that filmmakers are able to differentiate.
There is also the matter of the resolution of content, should it be in 4K or full HD? At present Lee finds that in Malaysia there is no real push for 4K content yet as 4K TVs are not widespread yet and even content providers like Astro, have yet to offer content in native 4K resolution.
“We always thought that people don’t demand 4K resolution content but now TVs can access YouTube and when we see our local 2K content compared to Hollywood produced shows, that are natively shot in 4K, there is a clear gap in quality,” said Lee.
What’s next for display technologies?
While no one can predict the future, Professor Dr Ahmad Sabirin believes that as OLED technology allows displays to get thinner and even flexible, they may eventually be used to reduce usage of paper in places like hospitals where reports can be sent seamlessly to doctors and nurses.
Getting news on a flexible OLED display may be the new way we catch up on the latest news with our newspapers.
Though it is a long way off before OLED technology allows displays to be that thin, Professor Dr Ahmad Sabirin does hope that one day we would be interacting with displays just as Tom Cruise did in the movie Minority Report.
Though Lee finds that Malaysia is still slow to adapt to 4K content, that does not stop his ambitions to experiment in new mediums, particularly Virtual Reality (VR).
“Video games are the next big new medium and is actually equal or larger than the movie industry. As a medium, there is a lot of storytelling elements that can be told over episodic content just like a TV series and I am interested to see how I can contribute to that and push my film making to the next level,” he said.
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